RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–While terrorist attacks and military retaliation create uncertainty about the future for many people, Southern Baptists must “seize the day” for Jesus Christ, said Jerry Rankin, president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.
“This is not a time for putting missionary activity on hold,” Rankin said. “It is a time for seizing the opportunity to proclaim our living Savior in every effort to extend the kingdom of God into the strongholds of darkness.”
Southern Baptist missionary work was temporarily disrupted by the terrorist attacks Sept. 11 and the military strikes launched in reply Oct. 7, Rankin said.
“A number of families were temporarily withdrawn from the more vulnerable situations, and others in isolated and remote assignments were relocated,” he said. “Some public events overseas were postponed, some travel restricted and a few volunteer projects canceled for the immediate future.
“But we feel these were just temporary precautions.”
Times of crisis present God’s people with extraordinary opportunities to help people find the kind of peace only Jesus can offer, a peace that overcomes whatever turmoil we experience, Rankin said.
“The current developments, as with other crises in the past, provide unprecedented opportunities for ministering to a world dominated by paranoia and fear,” he said. “It is a unique time to share the hope and security that can only be found in Jesus Christ.
“Rather than letting our attention and focus be diverted, we are encouraging our missionaries and Southern Baptists to keep a ‘big-picture’ perspective. We need to watch to see what God in his providence will do and how he will use these events to fulfill his purpose of being exalted among the nations.”
The turmoil unleashed a flood of telephone calls, e-mails and letters from people worried about the safety of Southern Baptist missionaries overseas, Rankin said.
“We’re grateful for the outpouring of concern for our missionaries during this crisis,” he said. “We want to assure everyone that the highest priority is being given to the safety and security of our overseas personnel.
“We have anticipated the military actions of our government and allies which were initiated this week, as well as possible threats and reprisals in response. Our missionaries receive training in risk management and were briefed on security issues and possible contingencies in the aftermath of the tragic events of Sept. 11.”
Once missionaries have factored the new risks into their strategy, however, they are pressing full speed ahead into the challenge of sharing the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ with their people groups, Rankin said.
“Work is continuing and strategies are being fine-tuned for dramatic expansion in the future. Our final appointment service of the year will commission the largest number of career missionaries in the history of the IMB. More applicants have signed up for our November International Service Corps conference than have ever attended an ISC conference before.
“We want Southern Baptists to remember, even in the midst of turmoil, that Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all the nations,” Rankin said. “This is not a time for fear and retreat. This is a time to seize the day for Christ and his kingdom.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SEIZE THE DAY.
— As conditions in Afghanistan change, Southern Baptists will have tremendous opportunities to proclaim the gospel and minister to people in crisis. For information on how you and your church can help, visit http://www.imb.org. Contributions can be sent to International Mission Board, General Relief Fund – Afghanistan, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.